Quick overview of what you will learn from this blog post:
- Why healthy longevity is important
- What a longer life could mean for your future
- What can you do now to potentially live longer
Imagine having a few more decades of life to enjoy the things you love doing, extra time with loved ones, or even learning new skills. Whatever your passion, a longer life could allow you to do those things. But, while there are many positives to a longer life, there is also effort needed to achieve it.
So, why does longevity matter?
How often do you wake up and say: “I just can’t wait to be 90 years old.” Everyday? once per week? 3 times per week? If the answer is “never”, or “I dread the time when I get old”, then the reverse is that you want to delay getting old as much as possible. And that’s what longevity does, and that’s why it matters.
More years, more possibilities
A longer lifespan could help you to do more of the things you enjoy. Traveling the world and seeing the many wonderful things it has to offer is one option. Going back into education and studying a new qualification or starting your own business are two more possibilities.
Why have only one career during a lifetime, why not many? Each more rewarding than the other. More time could be a huge boon for developing ourselves as human beings.
When you think about it, our youth is a fast-paced time where one is still growing and learning about life. And yet we are expected to decide the rest of our life course in such a short time. Many people do not know what they want to do until much later in life. This is one way longevity could help.
The additional time would let you reconsider earlier life choices, and perhaps return to learning and reinvent yourself. There are many examples of people in history who did some of their most amazing work in middle or old age. Imagine how much more they could have done with a few more decades of healthy life.
Current lifespans can also feel like making a family must be crammed into our busy lives, and we might feel like we are forced to choose between children and careers. Slowing down the biological clock ticking away would mean more time to develop a career, do the things we want to do in life, and more time to plan and make a family.
Sounds great, right? Well, yes, there are many positive aspects to a longer life, but it does not come without a bit of effort.
Lifespan and healthspan
When it comes to getting older, many people tend to imagine that they will beat the odds and they will not suffer the ill health advancing age often brings. When they picture themselves in old age it is often a cherry-picked scenario where they remain vital and healthy.
But with longevity you cannot predict how it will be for you or what you will do if you manage to live a long time but your health is not good. Imagine if you did manage to reach an advanced age but your health was poor due your lifestyle choices earlier in life.
So, lifespan on its own is a double edged sword and no one really wants to spend more time alive but sick.
This is why when it comes to lifespan, the aim should be to combine it with healthspan, the period of life you spend healthy and free from the diseases of aging. A longer healthspan means if you do achieve a longer lifespan, you will be able to make the most of those extra years in good health.
Being long lived and healthy is an attractive idea and it has a lot of potential benefits, but if we want those things, we must work for them.
Longevity is great but we have to work for it
So, how are we doing with embracing healthy longevity as a society? Well, unfortunately, not so great.
There are around two thirds of the US population obese or overweight, with all the health risks that entails, it’s not exactly a stellar effort so far. Sedentary lifestyles, modern diets, and other bad habits can take a toll on our healthspan.
Obesity is a risk factor for various age-related diseases including Alzheimer’s Disease, cardiovascular disease, and diabetes.
Today, there are over 6 million people with Alzheimer’s disease in the USA alone and that number is rising. While there is currently no cure for Alzheimer’s and other related dementias, there are certainly unhealthy practices that can increase your risk of developing the disease. Poor sleep is associated with an increased risk of developing Alzheimer’s, for example, and many people do not pay enough attention to how well they sleep.
Around 659,000 people in the USA die from heart disease each year. Heart disease is a condition that can be addressed with lifestyle changes to a significant extent. It is also a disease that can be provoked as the result of poor lifestyle choices including sedentary behavior and poor diet.
There are also over 34 million Americans living with diabetes (roughly 1 person in 10), with over 90% of those being type 2 diabetes. Being overweight, inactive, low level of HDL (“good”) cholesterol, high level of triglycerides, age, and high blood pressure are all risk factors for this condition. Many of those risk factors can be managed through good lifestyle practices.
So, we might be living longer thanks to medical progress, but our healthspan is not great thanks to poor lifestyle choices that increase our risks of age-related diseases.
Perhaps the best way to think of a longer lifespan is that it’s a worthy goal, but only if you’re willing to put the work in to combine that with healthspan. Trust us, it’s not as daunting as it might seem! A few simple tweaks to your lifestyle may be all you need.
It is also worth noting that while genetics likely do play a role in longevity, it is thought that only around 25 percent of the variation in human lifespan is determined by it.
That means environment and lifestyle play a far greater role in determining if you live a long life or not. Which is great news because it means it is something you have more control over.
It’s never too late to get started
If we want to improve our chances of achieving healthy longevity there are a few things you can do right now regardless of how old you are. It is never too late to start living healthier.
Finally, researchers around the world are currently working on ways to increase healthy human lifespans. But they also understand that only by combining lifespan and healthspan does it make what they are doing worthwhile.
So, like them, make healthy longevity your goal today!